Having a day off in Lake Tekapo was a great decision as it gave me the opportunity to put things in perspective and to take some time to enjoy the amazing scenery that New Zealand has to offer. I have to admit that I found the first week tough both in terms of the cycling up mountain passes and the complete change in lifestyle. I cried everyday about wanting to go home and had utter self doubt about being able to do this and to do this for the next 18 months or so. Even though I expected the transition to be hard, I just wanted to hurry up and get through the other side so that I could start to really enjoy the trip.
However, the morning we left Lake Tekapo we rose to an absolutely beautiful sun rise which glowed amber through the windows of our youth hostel and the clouds were so thick that they reminded me of whipped cream. Saddling up on Hooch, my body no longer wanted to resist and we set off for Omarama with wind in our sails. We had a brilliant day’s cycling with huge snow capped mountains to our left keeping track of our progress. We cycled round Lake Pukaki but although we kept our eyes peeled, unfortunately the clouds did not lift to allow us to catch a glimpse of Mount Cook; New Zealand’s highest mountain where Sir Edmund Hillary practised his climbing before conquering Mount Everest.
Arriving at the campsite in Omarama, we decided to be indulgent again and get a cabin as we were warned the weather forecast was for heavy rain. We have also found a lot of the campsites charge quite a lot for a tent pitch and as the cabins are not that much more it just seemed to make more sense to do that and get a good night’s sleep in a warm bed. That evening we met two Kiwi families from the North Island who were holidaying together. We got talking and we told them that we were cycling, at which they exclaimed that they had passed us four times that day! They said that although they thought we must be crazy when they first passed us, once they had passed us again and again, our distance and speed had impressed them. After having comment after comment about how people reckon it is so much easier on the back of the tandem and that I can just sit back and let Steve do all the hard work, to my absolute delight one of the guys said that from what he saw it looked I was the one putting in all the hard work. Result! They had a great knowledge of the southern island and I was grateful that they persuaded Steve that the two routes he had in mind may be pushing it and a bit too remote. They backed the route that I was suggesting. I liked this family more and more.
The next morning we were prepared for a bit of a climb up Ahuriri Saddle but after that our proposed route looked pretty much downhill for the rest of the day. We had a great descent after the climb but it caused us such freezing hands that we popped into a cafe for a coffee to warm up. The waitress there suggested that we really should take the route over Benmore Dam as it was just a ‘wee hill’ and gave amazing views. Well, it did give amazing views but it was not quite the ‘wee hill’ we had expected and whilst this route was more scenic round Lake Aviemore it was quite undulating and unfortunately added 15 kilometres onto our journey. Plus once this detour finally got us back onto the road we had originally planned to cycle, our good luck with the weather ended as it began to rain. Despite all this, and although I had a few moans, there were certainly no tears – I must be hardening up.
For those All Blacks fans we had lunch in Kurow where Richie McCaw grew up, then we headed onto Duntroon where we ended our day at a campsite there. The rain was getting heavier and heavier but our luck was in as there was nobody else at the campsite, which was pretty much in the middle of nowhere, and it had a lounge area and we even found a mattress so we slept inside. However, I didn’t have a great sleep as being a proper townie, I got myself all worked up about being in the middle of nowhere with crazy country folk and became more and more paranoid about people peeping through the windows. I know my thoughts are completely ridiculous, especially when most crime is committed in cities but hey, I am having to get used to the lack of people around and the countryside darkness.
The next day we headed to Hampden where we camped right round the corner from the Pacific Ocean. We could even hear its roar in our tent. Seeing and feeling the sea really refreshed us and blew away the fears I had been developing deep in the countryside. We got up early the next morning and went to see the Moeraki Boulders. These are boulders that were once deep in the cliffs but as the cliffs eroded, out fell these huge boulders.
After this we had an extremely hilly cycling day around the coast. However, our efforts were rewarded when we saw a seal having a doze under some plants not far from the road. We saw a few cars zoom past and not even notice him. Cycling is definitely good for spotting those things that usually in the car you would be too fast to notice.
Our final destination before another rest day was Dunedin but in order to get there we had to climb up Mount Cargill, a 6.8 kilometre hard climb. This long climb took me by surprise and I felt like we would never get to the top of the darn thing. When we got to the top, Steve said he was really enjoying the climb and was sad that it had come to an end. I preferred the down hill the other side! We then passed the world’s steepest road but after watching a couple of cars struggle up, we thought we would give it a miss on our loaded tandem.
Steve said he had a friend who he worked with at school in the UK who we could stay with in Dunedin. However, we were having problems finding their place as it was getting darker. I spotted a guy and so I ran after him shouting ‘Excuse me’ so that I could ask directions. As soon as he saw me he started running away from me and entered a garage and slammed the door behind him. It must be time to wash our gear I guess! Eventually we made it to the Warringtons’ house. What a relief and a warm welcome we received. This was despite me actually finding out that Steve had only briefly met Aaron once when he was working in the UK some years ago. In fact Aaron couldn’t even remember Steve but in spite of this, they still kindly said we could have a bed at their place. Although we may not have known Aaron, Jollene, Ruby and Ollie before getting to Dunedin, we certainly felt like great mates by the end of the stay and they were another great example of the wonderful Kiwi hospitality. Thank you guys, although we were slightly disturbed at the chipped plate!
As we head off to the far south of New Zealand, we would like to thank everyone who has sent us messages of support. We read them all and they give us a real boost. However, as we don’t get on-line very often, we are sorry we haven’t been able to respond to all of them.
Steve’s little offering this week…
Lastly – Look Mum we are in the Newspaper